On Board Certification

Division 49 Early Career Psychology Column July 2018

“Misha, you will never be as knowledgeable as on the day you take your licensure exam” said my supervisor. We were talking about my plans to take EPPP and the amount of material I needed to know. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the study guides, notecards, reading, and memorization. There was so much information that I was expected to know! When it came to the test sections that did not relate to my work as a psychologist, I felt particularly frustrated. I know EPPP tests for general skills… but come on! Three days prior to the test, I lived and breathed the study guides. Woke up at 6:00 am for the exam at 12:00 and memorized until the last minute. I came out of the testing center barely containing my tears. My friends took me to a restaurant, bought me food and drinks, and took me to see a movie. I was convinced that I failed the test (at that time we did not get the results immediately) and continued to study for two weeks. The day I received my result, which was passing, I threw away almost everything that related to the test. It felt like I jumped over the last hoop on the road of becoming a licensed psychologist.

I first heard of Board Certified Psychologists while in graduate school. There was a faculty member that we all spoke of reverently because he was Board Certified in psychoanalytic approach. During my internship, the group coordinator was Board Certified. I utilized the Early Entry application process before finishing up my graduate degree. What drove me to do it? I wanted to be one of those people who I saw as an “expert”. I wanted to have ABPP after my name. I wanted to be one of the 4% who went above and beyond! But, when all of the prerequisites were done… the doubt crept in. I am “only” an early career psychologist. What can I possibly know? Surely not enough to be Board Certified. However, with the encouragement of my mentor and my own drive, I kept at it. My passion is anything group psychology related, so it made sense getting Board Certified as a Group Psychologist. I recorded a group session, wrote a practice sample and a professional statement. The date of my examination was set. For months, I kept reading books and articles trying to anticipate the questions. I felt most anxious about the Oral part of the exam: being assessed by three experts felt way more intimidating than answering “multiple guess” questions on EPPP. Once again, I woke up at 6:00 am the day of my exam and frantically reviewed my notes.

What a difference it was walking out of ABPP exam versus EPPP! First of all, I did not feel like crying. I felt examined, for sure, very thoroughly. The questions directed at me were meant to provoke my thinking and challenge me. I was asked to critically examine the way I prepare, think about, facilitate, train, and terminate groups. Most of it, felt like a deep conversation about group psychology. It was very collegial and the examiners were invested in not only examining me, but also making me a better group psychologist. More than the comprehensive exams in school, graduation, passing EPPP, getting a license… walking out of the exam felt like a true rite of passage. Studying for EPPP made me be the most knowledgeable on the day of the exam. Studying for ABPP exam made me a better psychologist … on any day.